Sleepily Settled on the Rio de la Plata, Colonia del Sacramento awaits your urban escape from Buenos Aires. A mere hour hydrofoil ride away, there is no reason to miss a day trip to the lovely cobblestoned streets of Colonia. Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, the picturesque town experienced a tumultuous history of wars, treaties, and constant crown-changes between the Spanish and Portuguese (and briefly Brazil) before finally gaining independence in 1828.
Colonia’s draw is its simplicity and old-world charm. Little to no planning needed, the day is yours to explore on foot, wine-dine-relax, maybe shop. For me, it was the ultimate photography playground.
There are a hand-full of small museums that several guide books recommend, including Museo Portugués and Casa Nacarello. We didn’t have any uruguayo (local currency), and while most restaurants accept Argentinian pesos, the museums would not. The crisp sunny day was too tempting anyway. We were more inclined to strolling and stopping for warm soup and wine al fresco.
The Barrio Historico (Old Town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (#747 for any of you UNESCO site collectors) and can be explored fairly thoroughly in a couple of hours. It’s a nice change of pace from Buenos Aires. If you’re not planning on spending time dining with friends, photographing, or browsing shops, there’s a chance of boredom. But I guess that could be said about anywhere in the world? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I found Colonia to be utterly captivating, serene, and atmospheric.
The Barrio Historico’s highlights are Iglesia Matriz (Uruguay’s oldest church), Plaza Mayor, Calle de los Susprisos, the Faro (lighthouse, which is worth the climb for the panoramic views), and Convento de San Francisco (the ruins surrounding the lighthouse), all within close proximity of one another.
Having more time to relax and partake in my favorite traveling activity- eating- meant more time absorbing the local culture. Sometimes when we get on a site-seeing jag, the ability to appreciate and enculturate suffers. It’s that whole stopping to smell the roses thing. I guess the other extreme is hopping on a double decker city tour bus.
What’s your favorite old, colonial town or city?